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(Special Report) Fears of NIWA-LASWA out-of-court MoU on waterways control

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Whereas Lagos State Government has relied on indigeneship advantage of the former Speaker of the State House of Assembly and current the outgoing Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, to struck out of court settlement of the 10 year old battle over control of Waterways in and around Lagos, industry analysts say other states may rely on the signed settlement terms to displace NIWA across the federation.

According to them, the scenario may, depending on the terms of agreement, render NIWA almost incapacitated to control other states’ waterways by hiding under whatever terms reached with NIWA by Lagos State on behalf of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA).

Observers stood on this argument based on the fact that there shall not be two standards for NIWA to control waterways (one for Lagos and another for others).

Other states that have waterways which are supposed to be under the control of NIWA include Rivers, Cross River, Imo, Anambra, Delta, Niger, Benue, Kogi, Kebbi and others.

Recall that in 2017, when the chief executive of NIWA was Mr. Boss Mustapha, the current Secretary General of the Federation, had appealed the Appeal Court ruling that set aside the Federal High Court judgment which empowered NIWA to regulate inland waterways, including dredging activities, and empowered Lagos State to regulate same within the state.

NIWA, upon heading to Supreme Court, further clarified that the Court of Appeal only granted Lagos State the power to legislate on intra-state waterways i.e. such waterways that originate and end within the state (which actually does not exist).

Mustapha made it clear then in a statement that “The Court of Appeal retained the power to regulate international, intra-coastal and inter-state waterways in NIWA being items provided under articles 36 and 64 of the exclusive legislative list of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“It should be noted that NIWA was not the plaintiff in this case at the lower court as wrongly perceived, but a co-defendant with Lagos State.

“It is also imperative to notify the public that beside this Court of Appeal judgment, there is also another subsisting Court of Appeal decision in G. M Enterprises Limited vs C.R. Investment Ltd. reported in (2011) 14 N.W.L.R. part 1266, page 125, where the Court of Appeal held that NIWA has been conferred with far reaching power and right to control, develop, manage and use all the lands, navigable waterways, inland waterways, river ports etc throughout Nigeria. The position therefore remains that it is only the federal government that can regulate Inland waterways, shipping, navigation and dredging activities within the Nigerian inland waterways and its Right-of-Ways.

“Therefore, NIWA wishes to use this medium to call upon all maritime and dredging operators to disregard the latest claims by the Lagos State Government, remain calm, and continue to carry on their legitimate businesses as regulated by NIWA.

Accordingly, NIWA reminded followers of the matter that the federal agency had approached the Supreme Court for redress, noting that “it has already filed an appeal against the judgment at the Supreme Court pending the formal transmission of the judgment to NIWA and therefore Lagos State has nothing to be excited about since the judgment has not changed the status quo ante.”

However, in what analysts suggest to be one last assistance to Lagos State ahead of resigning for ministerial assignment, Senator Mamora’s NIWA has sealed out-of-Supreme-Court settlement Memorandum of understanding (MoU), to end the legal tussle over the management of the waterways in and around the State and the accruing resources with Lagos State Government.

During the ceremony which took place at the Lagos House Alausa, Ikeja, Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu who signed the pact alongside the Managing Director of NIWA noted that the out of court settlement was in the overall interest of Lagos residents especially users of the waterways.

Governor Sanwo-olu pointed out that the development would further enhance the ease of doing business in the State and attract more investments in the sub-sector.

In his remarks, the Managing Director of NIWA, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, stated that the collaboration would bring forth robust management and enhance safety measures on the waterways.

Senator Mamora who is one of the Ministerial Nominees from Lagos State, expressed confidence that the agreement which covers security, harmonization of tariffs and other key areas would override the ruling of the Supreme Court on the previously contested issues.

Speaking with newsmen shortly after the ceremony, the General Manager of LASWA, Mr. Damilola Emmanuel said the development would increase tourism opportunities and restore investors ‘ confidence in the viability of water transportation in Lagos.

The Lagos State’s Solicitor General, Mrs Funmilola Odunlami supervised the signing of the MOU.

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